Dragon Fire

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        William S. Cohen, the former U.S. Senator and Secretary of Defense, has walked the most powerful corridors in the world. Now, in the intricately woven Dragon Fire where it’s nearly impossible to distinguish fact from fiction, he takes listeners into the top secret rooms where the fate of the world is held in the hearts and minds of men with dangerous and hidden agendas.

        When the Secretary of Defense is ...

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        William S. Cohen, the former U.S. Senator and Secretary of Defense, has walked the most powerful corridors in the world. Now, in the intricately woven Dragon Fire where it’s nearly impossible to distinguish fact from fiction, he takes listeners into the top secret rooms where the fate of the world is held in the hearts and minds of men with dangerous and hidden agendas.

        When the Secretary of Defense is assassinated, Michael Patrick Santini, a former Senator and Vietnam P.O.W., is pulled from his Wall Street firm back to Washington to lead the Pentagon. Once there, he discovers that the United States is under attack by a silent, sinister force. Someone, somewhere is determined to destroy America as a global power—and Santini must uncover and expose this force before more acts of deceit and destruction draw the U.S. into a war where millions will die. Rejecting a direct order from the President of the United States, Santini races across the globe in a desperate attempt to prevent a man from Santini’s past from starting a global war.

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  • William S. Cohen
    William S. Cohen  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rich in both action and detail, former secretary of defense Cohen's solid debut chronicles several weeks in the life of Michael Santini, who surprise! serves as secretary of defense in an administration battling world crises on many fronts. Terrorists are attacking American interests both at home and abroad; Russia, Germany and China appear to be forming a global alliance; and right-wing militias are causing trouble in the U.S. heartland. Santini, besides trying to find a common thread in the chaos, also has to fight his own turf wars inside the Beltway. After a ponderous start, the plot rapidly gathers momentum, zigzagging along in the tradition of the best international thrillers, if at times hitting bumps of superfluous descriptions of military maneuvers and D.C. politics. While Cohen isn't always in control of the large cast and Santini rarely develops beyond an action figure, fans of espionage and intrigue will surely appreciate this political thriller for its authentic glimpse behind the doors of power. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A rogue faction in the Chinese government plots the end of U.S.-Sino cooperation, and only the Secretary of Defense can stop the madness. Former congressman, senator and Clinton-era Secretary of Defense Cohen draws on years of political and Pentagon experience for his sideline gig as a thriller writer (Murder in the Senate, 1993, etc.). His latest tells of near-calamity involving good and evil Chinese, good and evil Americans, good and evil Germans, a totally evil Russian Mafioso and a spectacularly beautiful and good Mossad assassin. The best of the Americans is Michael Santini, appointed Secretary of Defense after the incumbent was poisoned by anthrax-dusted cats. Santini, a veteran of the Hanoi prisons, swore off politics for finance after one term as senator, enjoying the fabulous wealth that came with his new career on Wall Street. But his sense of duty kicked in when the president begged for his help in managing the crises that have been hitting the free world with increasing frequency. At the heart of the troubles is some serious saber-rattling in China, where evil General Li has authorized nuclear tests in the Muslim-dominated western provinces. An unreconstructed Maoist, the general has had enough of the capitalist roaders and plans to involve Vladimir Pavlovich Berzin, a corrupt candidate for the Russian presidency, in a scheme that will rub America's face in the dirt. Berzin, meanwhile, has his own plan to control the universe. In backstabbing D.C., National Security Advisor Joe Praeger has his own agenda and the president's ear. Santini begins to pick up the threads of the various plots during a visit from his opposite number in Beijing, one of the good guys.Fortunately, he is backed by the straight-shooting Chiefs of Staff. Barely disguised talking points and a very long setup test the patience of thrill-seeking intrigue fans.
Bob Woodward
Packed with insights about everything from White House infighting, to the Pentagon, the CIA and onto the world stage.
Richard North Patterson
Only someone who knows the minefields of world politics firsthand could have written this tense insider thriller.
General Anthony C. Zinni
A superb, fast-paced tale of international intrigue.
From the Publisher

"This is a great read from a man who knows a thing or two about national security. As Secretary of Defense, Bill Cohen helped lead our military into the 21st century. Now he's drawn upon his extensive experience to write a gripping tale of excitement and intrigue."--President Bill Clinton

"A riveting thriller played out on a world stage for the highest stakes imaginable…. Dragon Fire forcefully engages us with spellbinding personal and professional intrigue set within a framework of international power politics that feels as authentic as it is exhilarating."--Senator John McCain

"Only someone who knows the minefields of world politics firsthand could have written this tense insider thriller. Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen draws us into a labyrinthine intriques of the world's most powerful people in such a way that the pages seem to turn themselves. Deadly Deceptions is a fascinating thriller."--Richard North Patterson, New York Times bestselling author of Conviction

"The best espionage and political intrigue novels are written by insiders; Dragon Fire by Former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen is among the best of the best. William Cohen opens the doors to the halls of power and gives us a peek into the how the world really operates. Great writing, great insight, and the ring of authenticity combine for a hell of a read."--Nelson DeMille, New York Times bestselling author of Night Fall

"Thrilling and inspired. Though fiction, Dragon Fire is an electrifying tale packed with insights about everything from White House infighting, to the Pentagon, the CIA and onto the world stage and the potential threats from Russia and China. All from a former Senator and Secretary of Defense who has been there and seen it all." ---Bob Woodward, New York Times bestselling author of Plan of Attack

"Chilling---told as only one who knows could tell it." --- W.E.B. Griffin, New York Times bestselling author of The Hostage

"Dragon Fire is a dazzling geopolitical thriller by a genuine Washington insider who, amazingly, knows how to tell a fast-paced story packed with intrigue, suspense and action. You're going to love this one!"---Stephen Coonts, New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor

"A former Secretary of Defense should not be permitted to write this well…. This is not just a ripping airplane read, it's a real book, it's literature. Dragon Fire should be required reading for everybody in the White House and Congress, the State Department, and the CIA."--Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of Gates of Fire and The Afghan Campaign

"Bill Cohen has written a superb, fast paced tale of international intrigue....His insights into the inner-workings of our government and how we interact with other nations adds a powerful dimension to this well-written story that few others could provide. It is truly a great read."--General Anthony C. Zinni USMC (Retired)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781427200235
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Publication date: 8/22/2006
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.23 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

William S. Cohen served as Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton from 1997–2001, making him the 20th U.S. defense minister. It was the first time in recent American history that a president had elected a member of the opposing party to his cabinet. Born in Bangor, Maine in 1940, Cohen, a lawyer, was a member of the U.S. Senate and Congress for 24 years. He lives with his wife in the Washington, D.C. area.



Holter Graham, winner of AudioFile’s 2008 Best Voice in Science Fiction & Fantasy for Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Acheron, is a stage, television, and screen actor. A recipient of an AudioFile Earphones Award, he has recorded numerous audiobooks, including multiple books from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s sensationally bestselling Dark-Hunter series. He has also narrated audiobooks for such authors as Scott Turow, Dean Koontz, John Berendt, and Stephen Frey. His film credits include Fly Away Home, Maximum Overdrive, Hairspray, and The Diversion, a short film which he produced and as well as acted in. On television, he has appeared in Army Wives, Damages, As The World Turns, Rescue Me, Law & Order and New York Undercover. He received a B.A. from Skidmore College and an M.F.A. from Vermont College.

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Read an Excerpt

DRAGON FIRE (Chapter One)


For Secretary of Defense Thomas H. Koestler and other major Washington news sources, Sunday mornings meant either being on one of the talk shows or watching them. On this Sunday, Koestler was in the kitchen of his manorial home in a Virginia suburb of Washington. Perched on a high stool at the marble island that curved through the room, he nibbled on half a bagel, lathered with cream cheese, and watched Meet the Press on a small television set placed under the garland of hanging pots and pans. Tim Russert had managed to snag Joseph Praeger, President Jefferson's National Security Adviser. Well, not snagged exactly. Praeger, Koestler knew, was on Meet the Press because he wanted to handle "the Taiwan thing," as he called the issue that he and Koestler had been wrestling with.

And so when the assistant producer of Meet the Press asked for the Secretary of Defense, the White House communications handlers had deftly intercepted the invitation and offered Praeger as a real catch. Praeger rarely appeared on television, and Koestler, looking at this diminished version of him, was surprised at how ill at ease he appeared to be as Russert went into his ritual: a tough question, then an incriminating or enlightening news clip scrolling down the screen.

"Well, Mr. Praeger," Russert said, "let's start with Taiwan. Is the United States planning to rattle China's cage by giving Patriot antimissile weapons to Taiwan?"

As Praeger opened his mouth to speak, Russert said, "Let's look at this," and an excerpt from a Washington Times news story appeared on the screen:

The Taiwan Defense Minister went on to say that his country would establish what he called the "Taiwan Missile Defense System," which seems to be a version of the U.S.-developed theater missile defense system. His reference to the system appeared to be an attempt to raise a hot-button issue: Taiwan's intention to join the U.S.-initiated theater missile defense project.

The Defense Minister said that Taiwan would purchase foreign equipment while at the same time developing systems on its own. As part of the program, he said that Taiwan would install an early-warning radar system and purchase the U.S. Patriot III anti-missile system.

As the clipping faded, the screen was filled with the image of a Patriot anti-missile streaking skyward.

"There you are, Mr. Praeger," Russert said, swinging his gaze toward the adviser. "Patriot anti-missiles, special delivery to Taiwan?"

"Let me make one important point, Tim," Praeger began. "The Patriot III is not on the table—yet."

"Yet," Koestler repeated, smiling and shaking his head. Pure Praeger, he thought. Tantalizing the truth.

Koestler picked up his coffee cup. Suddenly, his hand began shaking. He had never felt so tired, not even at the end of the Marine Marathon. The cup fell to the white-tile floor and shattered. He heard a long, yowling cry and looked across the kitchen to see Sheba, the old black cat, stagger in. Her shrieks were echoed by her old mate, Grayfur, making banshee yowls somewhere in the house.

Koestler started coughing—a wet, hacking cough that ripped through his body. He coughed so hard that he could hardly breathe. His throat burned with a greater pain than he had ever known. He stood and turned toward the sink. He needed water. But he could not make his feet move. He leaned his big, broad-shouldered body against the island, gripping the smooth edge to keep from falling. Now he was shaking all over, and a hot, vile-tasting fluid rose from his stomach. He was gagging. Blood was running from his mouth and nose. His body began heaving as he threw up, strands of blood glistening in his vomit. His bowels opened, and a warm, stinking mess ran down his right leg.

His beefy hands opened, as if on their own, for he knew that he could no longer control his body. He coughed one more time, spewing blood. Then he fell, the left side of his face slamming down on the shards of porcelain. He summoned enough strength to scream. Another echo of the cats, he thought. But they were no longer screeching.

He screamed again. He could hear Gertrude calling his name again and again—"Tom, Tom . . ." Doc Gert, he remembered, for his brain still worked. Gertrude Koestler, M.D., who so loved to bring babies into this world. Then she was there, kneeling at his side, pressing her hands on his chest, then pressing her lips on his mouth, giving him breath, giving him breath. . . .

As she tried to bring back his flickering life, she knew what was happening inside the body of the man she had loved for thirty years. She recognized the symptoms immediately. Two recent anthrax poisonings had been plastered all over the front pages and the evening news. Anthrax! Spores of Bacillus anthracis were smashing against the membranes of cells throughout his body, opening cell after cell. The spores were maturing into deadly bacteria, multiplying so fast that his immune system could not develop antibodies. Crippled, the immune system still tried to function, seemingly killing the bacteria and bearing them to the lymph nodes for disposal. But the insidious bacteria was resurrecting now, she knew, multiplying, producing toxins, and spreading into the bloodstream.

Dr. Koestler stood and reached for the phone on the wall. When she dialed 911, the numbers appeared on the screen of a console in the gatehouse, where members of Koestler's security detail stayed when he was home. Two men wielding MP-5s burst out of the building and ran up the half circle of the driveway. One pressed a button on a remote device that opened the front door. He entered the house while the other crouched and covered him, swinging the MP-5 from right to left.

"In here," Gertrude Koestler shouted. "Help me move him."

They came in, their eyes and guns scanning the room.

"For God's sake, put down the guns and help me get him on the couch," she said, pointing toward the hall that led to Koestler's study.

One of the men put his gun on the marble island and squatted at Koestler's shoulders. The other man, still holding his gun, said, "What happened? You're both bleeding."

Gertrude Koestler realized that her face had been bloodied by the wounds on Koestler's face. "Never mind the blood," she said, moving to help the squatting man. The other man put down his gun and slipped his arms under Koestler's twitching legs. Koestler, eyes closed, struggled against death. He was gasping for breath, blood now streaming from his gaping mouth.

"Don't worry, Sam," Gertrude Koestler said, looking into the fearful eyes of the man at her side. Half-carrying, half-dragging, they had reached the study and had placed Koestler on the couch. "We're all inoculated. But Tom wasn't."

DRAGON FIRE Copyright 2006 by Thomas Schhly Filmproduktion GmbH

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 4, 2010

    Is this really "fiction"?

    What goes on behind closed doors in secret meetings and in the minds of government and influential people? If you ever wonder what really happens, or could possibly happen in today's world, this book will give you some ideas and probably scare the bejeebies out of you. Cohen certainly knew the facts so, is this fiction or a subtle way to tell us what really goes on?

    This one is a page turner.

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  • Posted May 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Disappointing from Sec. of Defense

    I was excited when I picked up this book from the bargain table- the former Sec. of Defense writing a topical thriller. With his background and knowledge it could have been insightful (which it was) and exciting (which it wasn't). Come on the Sec. of Defense is the action heroe- I'm sorry it lost credibility. Second point it wasn't well written. When I finished I thought that I wouldn't recommend it to anyone!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2007

    A reviewer

    I was excited when I first heard that former Secretary of Defense Cohen was writing a novel that would give readers a glimpse into the inner workings of the real world of the Intelligence Community, American government and international political intrigue. Now that I've read the book, I'm disappointed to find that the real world of the Intelligence Community, American government and international political intrigue apparently consists of hackneyed clichés, ludicrous scenarios, and improbable plot twists. Either that or Cohen¿s just a crappy writer. You know how some writers 'Tom Clancy' create central characters that are thinly veiled portrayals of themselves, except smarter, braver, and cleverer than anyone else in the universe 'Jack Ryan'? I¿m not saying that Cohen does that. I¿m just saying that if I were a police officer and I wrote a novel about law enforcement and used Cohen¿s style, it would turn out that my character would also really be Spiderman on the side. And governor of the state in his spare time. And elevated to either president of the US or saint ¿ maybe both ¿ by book 3 of the series. I¿m not saying that the book doesn¿t provide any glimpses into real government workings I just want to put it into perspective - Cohen¿s novel is an insight into modern Intelligence agencies and government strategies in the same way Dorf is an insight into the PGA tour. On the one hand, I guess it¿s a bit unfair to be so critical of the book without offering any proof. On the other hand I hate to give any spoilers in case you decide to read the book. But on the other other hand, it¿s not like the plot isn¿t predictable ¿ some writer¿s use foreshadowing, Cohen uses foretelegraphing. It¿s not like you¿re not going to be able to guess what¿s about to happen so I might as well give a bit away. The synopsis on the book jacket will tell you that the book centers on former senator and Vietnam POW Michael Patrick Santini who is appointed as Secretary of Defense following the assassination of the sitting SoD. Cohen, one might guess, is the model for the Santini character. The publisher says that Dragon Fire is a riveting, intricate, ripped-from-the-headlines thriller that is so convincingly written, readers will wonder just how much of it is true. I gotta tell you, I didn¿t really wonder all that much. Might have been when Santini realized that the same evil US-hating Chinese bad guy who is plotting the downfall of the US is the same evil US-hating Chinese bad guy who was his tormentor as a POW that gave it away. One billion people in China and Santini gets the same bad guy twice? So now it¿s personal? THAT¿s not unlikely. Or maybe it was when Santini was rescued by his girlfriend ¿ who also just happens to be the top assassin in the world. For Mossad. Which could make for interesting political intrigue, though I don¿t really recall that particular headline in the daily RippingHeadlines News. Or maybe it was when, after the girlfriend-assassin ¿pfft, Pfft, pfft¿ed three bad guys ¿ and I did at least learn that ¿pfft¿ is the sound a silenced gun makes when an assassin takes out a bad guy in an amazingly rushed plot closer 'pfft, pfft, pfft and then they were all dead. The end' ¿ but it was probably the scene when the pair inexplicably decided to hide the bodies and handle things themselves rather than go to the fbi, cia, and NSA ¿ agencies that would surely mess everything up rather than having supercohen, uhm Santini, personally handle the situation. I won¿t even go into the part about how Cohen ¿ I mean Santini ¿ has to steal an SR-71 supersecret supersonic superhero superjet to fly to China and speak directly with the Chinese president ¿ who will believe him ¿ because the American president, being a lesser being, will not. It¿s a bit of a, well, stretch. More of a streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch, really. Hope I didn¿t give away too much. Hey, at least I didn¿t

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2006

    Exciting thriller

    Secretary of Defense Michael Santini struggles with his overextended force fighting the global war against terrorism on the home front and overseas. However, he and his boss are concerned that Germany, Russia and China appear heading to an alliance that could make the triumvirate the most powerful force in the world. Besides the bleak international picture, adding to his concern of where best to station the troops is that the militia operates dangerously free in many states.-------------- Inside the Beltway Santini also has turf battles with other cabinet officials especially at State and within his department from zealots who look for any excuse to start a war and pacifists who seek any excuse to bring the boys and girls home. Still he is a pro working the corridors of DC while also making surprise visits to the troops who are in harm¿s way as he tries to find the pattern to the chaotic madness that seems everywhere.------------------- This exciting thriller written by a former Secretary of Defense is at its best when Santini works the corridors of politics with his boss, the Secretary of State, the opposition party, and the media following his every step and his every utterance. The tale feels a bit disjointed when he works the international intrigue that seems more of a State Department issue yet that also showcases the institutional rivalry between the two most powerful cabinet post leaders and how an appointee must follow the sound bite regardless of belief (think Powell). Readers will enjoy William S. Cohen¿s insightful look at the Sec Def in a world filled with backstabbing global political alliances.------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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